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  1. Discomfort with Disinformation: Assessing U.S. Aversion to Sustained Counter Disinformation Efforts

    Thompson, Samantha
    June 3, 2022; June 2, 2022

    A series of crises during the 2010s brought disinformation and propaganda to the forefront of the foreign policy agenda, ranging from ISIS jihadist propaganda to state-sponsored disinformation campaigns interfering with the 2016 presidential election. While scholars and policymakers began to focus on the effect 21st century social media would have on international affairs, there has been less attention given to the willingness of the United States government to engage in “information wars.” Since World War I, U.S. counter disinformation organizations have undergone a cycle of rapid formation and decay. They are built during times of crisis, and after a short duration, they are dismantled. This pattern is puzzling because scholars of organizations have found government bureaucracies to be notoriously enduring. This thesis examines why counter disinformation organizations (CDO) are an exception and what are the underlying forces contributing to their short life spans. Drawing on presidential speeches and strategic documents, academic and journalistic reporting, internal memos, and interviews of key bureaucratic actors, I test four hypotheses that affect CDO tenure in a series of case studies: the legal mechanisms through which the CDO was created, the sense of urgency that propelled policymakers to create the organization in the first place, executive and congressional policymakers’ attention in the counter disinformation mission, and bureaucratic tension with peer and host organizations. My results indicate that a disinclination for strategic communications and information work exists within the U.S. national security apparatus that requires high level executive support to overcome. This support tends to be tied to a crisis that happens to have informational elements. These findings illuminate institutional habits within the U.S. national security bureaucracy that will help determine what government’s role should be in future information conflicts as the country moves towards a “whole-of-society” approach to combating disinformation and propaganda in a digital age.

  2. Population, welfare and economic change in Britain, 1290-1834

    Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 2014.

    Population, Welfare and Economic Change presents the latest research on the causes and consequences of British population change from the medieval period to the eve of the Industrial Revolution, in both town and countryside. Its overarching concern is with the economic and demographic decision-making of individuals and groups and the extent to which these were constrained by institutions and resources. Within this, the volume's particular focus is on population growth: its causes and the welfare challenges it posed. Several chapters investigate the success with which the English Old Poor Law provided care for the poor and elderly, and new work on alternative welfare institutions, such as almshouses, is also presented. A further distinctive feature of this book is its comparative perspective. By making systematic comparisons between economic and demographic developments in pre-industrial Britain and those taking place in various regions of contemporary Continental Europe and Russia, several chapters uncover how far Britain in this period was 'different'. Stimulating to experts and students alike, Population, Welfare and Economic Change offers overviews and summaries of the latest scholarship by leading economic historians and historical demographers, alongside detailed case studies which showcase the original research of younger scholars. Chris Briggs is Lecturer in Medieval British Economic and Social History at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of Selwyn College. P.M. Kitson is a former Research Associate at the Cambridge Group for the History of Population and Social Structure and Bye-Fellow of Downing College, Cambridge. S.J. Thompson is a former J.H. Plumb Fellow and Director of Studies in History at Christ's College, Cambridge. CONTRIBUTORS: Lorraine Barry, Jeremy Boulton, Chris Briggs, Bruce M.S. Campbell, Tracy Dennison, Nigel Goose, R.W. Hoyle, Peter Kitson, Julie Marfany, Rebecca Oakes, Sheilagh Ogilvie, Stephen Thompson, Samantha Williams, Sir Tony Wrigley, Margaret Yates.

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